I date the first work that focused on the unique question addressed by Mussar to the 10th century—Rabbi Sa’adia Gaon’s Sefer Emunot v’De’ot (completed in 933). That title is usually translated as The Book of Beliefs and Opinions, but it is equally correct to translate it as The Book of Beliefs and Soul-Traits, since medieval writers (including Rambam) tended to use the term de’ot where more recent writers would use middot [traits of the nefesh-soul].
Since that time, every generation has carried on the investigation that Sa’adia Gaon began in the chapter of his book called “How it is Fitting for a Human Being to Behave in the World.” The chain of Mussar teachers addressing that question is unbroken into the present.
The Mussar Institute’s fifth annual Generosity Week (February 21-26) involves five inspiring organizations whose services provide examples of ways to incorporate the practice of generosity in our lives through experiencing a direct connection with others within our communities. The organizations include Jewish Family Services, Hazon, Areyvuot—
Approximately 2,000 years ago, on the 9th of Adar, according to some of our traditional sources, the initially peaceful and constructive conflict between Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai erupted into a violent struggle over 18 matters of law, leading to the death of many rabbis and students (according to some sources, 3,000 of them!). According to other sources, there was no physical violence, but the 9th of Adar was the day that machloket (dispute) first emerged between Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai, which itself was sad and potentially destructive. Both the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmudim say that the day was as tragic as the day the golden calf was created.
The Mussar Institute Practice Retreats are designed to help participants discover a variety of ways to integrate Mussar into our daily lives. Whether you are a beginner or more advanced Mussar student, you will find ways to strengthen your practice. The community formed during the retreats is powerfully supportive, and each participant will work in groups and in chevruta (pairs), as well as with faculty, to find the paths that will work for you.
Excerpt from Marga & Henri Vogel’s article
published in the original Dutch in Holland, in the December issue of Mantra
The teachings of Mussar have become the greatest inspiration for our conscious behavior. We examine each and every action we take (or not) and its impact on our soul. Old stumbling blocks in our character-traits have disappeared, or at least have developed into smaller stumbling blocks, and show a noticeable change in our everyday functioning. How do we know?
MINI-KALLAH IN HOUSTON: Alan Morinis will be among the teachers presenting at “Strengthening Your Spiritual Connection,” a half-day Kallah in Houston on February 21. The faculty also include Aryeh Wolbe, Scott Hausman-Weiss, Matthew Berger, Ann Friedman, and Marian Bell. For more information or to register, please click here.
MUSSAR IN EUROPE: The first German Kallah was held January 16 in Cologne, with the assistance of the Mussar community of Holland. Hanna Fischer from Milch und Honig organized the Kallah, which was attended by 40 people and received broadcast attention on German national radio. Pictured (from left) are Henri Vogel, Daniel Beaupain, Hanna Fischer and Mirjam van Blankenstein.
KALLAH DATES: Kallah XIV will be held December 1-4 at the Capital Camp and Retreat Center north of the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area.
CHEVRUTA NEEDED: The Everyday Holiness and other courses require additional people willing to serve as chevruta to current students. If you are interested, please contact Kalinka Moudrova-Rothman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WELZOO: Raise funds for The Mussar Institute without actually spending any money! All you have to do is make welzoo.com your start page. Since it’s a simple setting in your browser (Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer), changing it is easy and there is no cost to you or to TMI. Once welzoo.com is your start page, go on the Internet as you normally would. Just for landing on Welzoo (automatic since it’s your start page), they donate up to 6 cents every day to TMI. Click on this link to begin: http://www.welzoo.com/join/mussar-institut/0Vl7f24/XaR2fGc
AMAZON SMILE: Bookmark this link to help The Mussar Institute each time you do eligible shopping through AmazonSmile: http://smile.amazon.com/ch/20-2095736. Amazon donates 0.5% of the purchase price to TMI.
VIDEO BLOGS: Visit the YouTube channel of Rabbi Chaim Safren of the Calgary Kollel in Canada, and one of our esteemed TMI teachers, on a variety of Mussar subjects.
New 3-minute Mussar video blogs come out a few times each month and deal with everyday opportunities for Mussar practice. Very engaging!
The Practice Corner
Tradition is something to be grateful for because our ancestors lit the path and have spared us the need to re-learn all the lessons in living that they accumulated during their lives which they pass along to us as “tradition.” With that thought in mind, a practice related to tradition is to a take a moment to feel and express gratitude in your heart for the guidance of teachers, for the Mussar tradition and for the Jewish tradition, for the guidance you have received and the suffering you have been spared.
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